The Toronto Maple Leafs will be retaining their backup goalie for another year as it was announced on Tuesday that pending restricted free agent Garret Sparks has signed a one year/$750,000 extension. Sparks was drafted in the seventh round by the Leafs in the 2011 Draft. He has since spent the majority of his time with the Marlies organization. He was the starting goalie when the Marlies captured the Calder Cup the last year during the 2017-18 season.
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The Leafs were widely suspected to be searching for a different backup to Sparks before the trade deadline. However, they opted to trust Sparks down the stretch. Toronto has three back-to-backs remaining on their schedule. That means Sparks likely has at least another three starts in him remaining on the season.
Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Goalie Garret Sparks to Extension
At 25 years old, Sparks’ progression has been slower than the Leafs were hoping. He’s dominated in the AHL, including a .936 save percentage season last year. However, he has struggled at the NHL level. Sparks has only made a total of 30 career NHL starts. He has a .902 SV% and 3.09 goals against average in 2018-19. The concern for Toronto is that though his numbers aren’t bad, the Leafs need every win they can get in a squeeze with the Boston Bruins for the home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Frederik Andersen has once again stabled the ship as the starting goalie in Toronto leading the NHL in wins and starting 48 games. Keeping Anderson fresh has been a concern for the Leafs all season. Sparks has offered decent quality as a backup thus far in his career.
The Sparks deal bodes well for Leafs management as they are approaching a busy off-season in regards to locking down key players. Sparks’ cap hit is very team friendly for a backup and gives the Leafs more flexibility towards their other RFAs. Auston Matthews signed a monster deal earlier this season and the Leafs are likely working on a way to keep Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson from leaving the club this offseason.
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 22: Garret Sparks #40 of the Toronto Marlies stops a shot against the Syracuse Crunch during AHL game action on February 22, 2017 at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)